Pilgrims renounce evil, sacrifice animals as Haj nears end

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Jeddah, Oct 16: Over a million Muslims, including more than a lakh Indians, participated in the symbolic stoning of the devil in Mina Valley of Saudi Arabia for a second day today and sacrificed animals to mark the culmination of the annual Haj pilgrimage.

The stoning ritual is the renunciation of evil in all its forms and a promise never to fall prey to the machinations and intrigues of Satan, the cursed. The pilgrims, shouting "Allahu Akbar" (God is the Greatest), converged in Mina Valley hurled stones at concrete pillars representing the devil. The ritual began yesterday and sizeable numbers of pilgrims, wearing the ihram or two-piece seamless white garment, participated throughout the day.

After the stoning, the pilgrims performed the ritual of animal sacrifice to commemorate Prophet Ibrahim's willingness to sacrifice his only son, Ishmael, to God. The stoning ritual is meant to mirror Ibrahim's stoning of the devil when he appeared to try to dissuade the prophet from obeying God's order to sacrifice Ishmael.

Eid-ul-Azha is celebrated to commemorate the bravery of Ibrahim. After offering prayers at Mount Arafat on Monday, pilgrims travelled to nearby Muzdalifa to collect stones for the ritual in Mina Valley, located on the outskirts of the holy city of Mecca.

Early morning yesterday, they began assembling in Mina for the stoning ritual, which has been marred in the past by stampedes and fires in tent camps. To overcome these problems, Saudi authorities have expanded the stoning area to accommodate more pilgrims and fire-proofed the tents.

Saudi Arab's Ministry of Interior spokesperson Maj Gen Mansour Al-Turki expressed satisfaction at the smooth and ideal movement of pilgrims between Muzdalifah and Mina and the stoning ritual. Owing to strict measures against squatters, pilgrims used the road network to the maximum leading to an uninterrupted movement, Al-Turki was quoted as saying by the Saudi Gazette.


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